STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 25th-ranked Mississippi State softball team opens action in the 2008 NCAA Division I Softball Championship Friday, taking on Hawai'i at 6:30 p.m. CST in the Tempe, Ariz. Regional.
State enters the tournament with a 40-20 mark and moved back into the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll this week. The Rainbow Wahine sits at No. 23 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and heads to Arizona State with a 38-19 record on the year.
The two teams have met just once prior to Friday, and that came last February when UH claimed a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs on a walk-off, two-run home run at the UNLV Desert Classic in Las Vegas.
MSU enters its seventh NCAA appearance and fifth in head coach Jay Miller's six seasons hitting .305 as a team, a mark which matches the highest in school history. First team NFCA All-South Region standouts Chelsea Bramlett and Courtney Bures are both hitting over .400 on the year, marking only the second time ever that two Bulldog starters have hit better than .400 in the same season.
Bramlett's .444 average leads the squad, as she has collected a team- and SEC-best 84 hits while starting 57 of State's 60 games behind the plate. She tops the squad with a sophomore-best 48 runs, and her 44 stolen bases are second in the league, fifth-best nationally and two behind the single-season school record 46 she set last season.
In addition to their first team all-region accolades, both she and Bures were named first team All-SEC last week. Bures, who topped the team with a .453 average in league play, heads into her final postseason hitting a career-best .403 with a team-leading 14 doubles and 42 RBI. The school's career RBI leader with 189 has also added two triples, five home runs and 39 runs.
The Bulldogs will look to freshman Misty Flesher and junior Kelsey Nurnberg to stifle a potent Rainbow Wahine offense that returns mostly intact following the program's first NCAA Super Regional berth last season.
Flesher enters the game with a team-best and MSU freshman second-best 19 wins. The Lone Grove, Okla., native had her streak of six straight decisions snapped last weekend against Alabama in the SEC Tournament. Flesher, who entered the bottom of the seventh of that game with a no-hitter, has tallied a team-best 109 strikeouts, second-most ever by a freshman and 35 walks over 162 and two-thirds innings. She has allowed 47 runs, 41 earned, for a team-low 1.76 ERA this year.
Nurnberg has compiled 17 wins for State this season and holds a 2.09 ERA with 97 strikeouts over a team-leading 171 innings.
State will likely see a familiar face in the circle in Kate Robinson. The team leader at the plate and in the circle for UH this season, Robinson picked up the victory in last season's win over the Bulldogs. A .384 batter, Robinson has belted a team-leading 19 home runs and driven in 51 runs for a squad that is hitting .290 with 41 RBI and 249 runs. In the circle, she has compiled a 17-8 record and 1.84 ERA while striking out 136 and walking 34 over 171 innings. Courtney Baughman has tallied 14 victories while totaling a 2.04 ERA in 126 and two-thirds innings.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - For the second-consecutive semester, the Mississippi State football team set a new record for team grade point average, posting a combined 2.72. Thirty-two players recorded at least a 3.00 average, and 11 earned diplomas at graduation ceremonies this month.
The Spring 2008 semester marked the seventh time in nine semesters under head coach Sylvester Croom the Bulldogs have raised their collective GPA. The team has made steady progress since posting a 2.06 in the semester prior to Croom's arrival.
Individually, freshmen Eric Richards and Derek Sherrod along with Phillip Freeman and Tyson Lee were named to the President's Scholar List (3.80 or higher). Freeman and Lee each posted a 4.00 in their first semesters on campus. Senior Jamayel Smith and freshman Zach Smith each earned Dean's Scholars List honors (3.50 or higher), and Michael Henig and Dezmond Sherrod posted 4.00 GPAs in graduate studies programs.
Eleven current and former football players earned degrees in May, including: Brian Anderson, Tim Bailey, Eric Brown, Tony Burks, Eric Butler, Michael Henig, Jarvis Kyles, Joey Sanders, Dezmond Sherrod, Roland Terry and Leron Yarbrough. Nine more athletes are scheduled to receive diplomas in either August or December.
Track & Field
AUBURN, Ala. - For the third time this season, Mississippi State junior Marrissa Harris broke her own school record in the 100-meter hurdles, running a regional-qualifying 13.20 seconds during the heptathlon on the first day of competition at the 2008 Southeastern Conference Track & Field Championships. Harris finished the opening day atop the leaderboard with 3,502 points.
Rains throughout the Auburn area hampered the start of event. Events were scheduled to begin at 2:30 local time, but due to the conditions, Thursday's times were pushed back by more than two and a half hours.
Harris smashed her previous best of 13.44, set just weeks ago. She placed second in the high jump, leaping five feet, five and one quarter inches. She also took fourth in the shot put, narrowly missing her personal-best with a throw of 37-07 ¼. In the day's final event, she ran a personal-best 24.04 in the 200-meter dash.
LaQuinta Aaron posted a strong opening day, finishing second behind Harris with 3,280 points. Aaron opened the competition with a fourth-place showing in the 100-meter hurdles with a personal-best and regional qualifying time of 13.77. Aaron took fifth in the high jump with a personal-best jump of 5-03 and sixth-place finish in the shot put. She completed her day running a personal-best 24.55 in the 200-meter dash.
Bridgett Rose and Dorothy Youmans ended the day ranked ninth and 10th, respectively. Youmans took eighth in the high jump and shot put, while Rose was third in the 100-meter hurdles and seventh in the 200-meter dash.
"Marrissa is on track to become an SEC champion," said MSU head coach Al Schmidt. "There are three more events tomorrow, and these ladies have to finish it out. Great athletes have to perform at great times. Tomorrow's first event (the long jump) is a big deal. Both Marrissa and LaQuinta have responded to pressure so far. Dorothy has been hurt, but she and Bridgett are hanging in there."
In the men's decathlon, Darryl Brady finished the day in seventh place, the highest amongst MState's three competitors. Brady won the high jump competition, clearing 6-04 ¾. Brady barely missed his personal best in the event, crossing the line in 11.16. Senior Joseph Queen set a personal best in the 100-meter dash (11.43), as did Martin Lee (11.37). Lee is eighth after day one.
All three men also set personal records in the shot put competition. Lee had the highest mark at 43-04 ¼ (sixth), while Queen posted a mark of 40-09 ¾ and Brady at 37-08 ½. Lee also posted a personal best in the 400-meter dash (51.03), as did Brady (51.31).
"We're in a good position on the men's side," Schmidt added. "Joseph is hurting from a groin injury, but Darryl and Martin are where we thought they'd be after the first day. Tomorrow should be a good day for them. Martin is a good hurdler and Darryl should perform well in the pole vault and javelin. We have a chance."
Action resumes tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m. from the Hutsell-Rosen Track on the University of Auburn campus.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Seeking the program's third NCAA Championship appearance, the Mississippi State men's golf squad shot a 278 in the first round of the NCAA East Regional Thursday at the Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga, Tenn., and stand in a tie for fourth in the 27 team field. The 278 team score was the best round by a Bulldog team in NCAA Regional play.
"We are all very pleased with the way we played today," said MSU head coach Clay Homan. "We were in third most of the day and had a good team effort all day."
Leading the charge in the first round was junior Josh Bevell. The Southaven, Miss., native shot a 5-under, 66 and is tied for third in the individual standings, just one shot off the leaders. Thursday's round was a career best for Bevell, besting the 67 he shot earlier this season in the Magnolia Cup. Junior Noah Goldman fired a first-round 68 and is in a tie for 15th after finishing with a 33 on the back nine.
"The round that Josh put together gave us a real boost," commented Homan. "We knew we would need one of the guys to step up and have a low round and he did just that. Noah also helped us out with his 68 today. Considering we played in a steady rain all day and probably faced the worst conditions in the field because of our late start, I was very proud of our performance."
Senior Josh Oller, State's top finisher in the SEC Championship, is tied for 33rd after a first-round 70. Juniors Carlos Sainz and Matt Fast shot rounds of 74 and 75 respectively to close out scoring for the Bulldogs.
Georgia, the nation's top-ranked team, concluded its first round with a 265 and leads the field by eight strokes. Augusta State is second followed by SMU. State and Middle Tennessee State round out the top five. Augusta State's Henrik Norlander and Georgia's Hudson Swafford both shot rounds of 65 as they lead by a stroke in the individual standings.
State will begin second round play Friday morning at 7:35 a.m. CT on hole #10. Sunday's final round will get underway at 6 a.m. CT. The top 10 teams will advance to the NCAA Championship May 28-31 at the Kampen Course at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Indiana.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's student-athletes concluded the recently completed 2008 spring semester with a combined 2.98 grade point average, the highest single semester all-sport GPA ever recorded by the school's men and women athletes.
Additionally, State's football team and women's basketball team earned their program's highest grade point averages ever, a 2.72 and 3.26, respectively.
State had 146 of its 270 scholarship student-athletes (54 percent) register a 3.00 grade point average or better. A total of 64 scholarship men and women received either Dean's Scholar or President's Scholar recognition.
MSU's men's sports posted an overall GPA of 2.82, falling just .01 below that gender's all-time record of 2.83 recorded this past Fall. The women turned in a 3.22 report card, their highest GPA in two years. Golf had the highest men's grade, a 3.19 GPA, while tennis turned in the highest women's score, a 3.59.
The MSU Athletics Academic Office began tracking student-athlete grades in Spring 1993.